Monday, August 17, 2015

Netflix and USPS--Working Together More Closely

USPS has dropped its overnight guarantee for first class service.  That adversely impacted Netflix's DVD service.  My household subscribed to the 4 DVDs, which usually meant we had one in the mail to us, one in the mail to Netflix, and 2 at home.  The extra one at home would cover weekends, holidays,etc.  Very occasionally the DVD at the top of our queue would require a long wait, long enough that Netflix might send an extra DVD just to make us feel better about skipping the first choice until it became available.

But through the magic of bar codes, and computers, USPS and Netflix have worked out a work-around.  For the past few weeks, in addition to the 4 DVD's for which we pay, we see a little note about an additional DVD in the mail.

What's happening?  My guess is that Netflix's computers know not only the bar code on the DVD we've been sent, but also the bar code on the envelope containing the DVD.  And the USPS has computers which can scan both sides of the envelope (both sides because I think the unique bar code is on the reverse from the address). [Updated:  I often make mistakes the first time.  What's really happening is that when you insert the sleeve with the DVD into the mailing envelope correctly, the bar code on the sleeve shows the window on the back of the mailing envelope, so the USPS computer can  scan the DVD sleeve.  ]So when I mail a DVD back, the envelope goes through the USPS processing plant in late afternoon/evening, and triggers a message to Netflix which in essence says: "Harshaw is returning Wolf Hall, Disc 1".  In turn Netflix can trigger the mailing of the next DVD on the queue.

I wrote "guess" above, but it's confirmed by a comment in a reddit thread.

What's totally mystifying to me is that I don't see any publicity from Netflix.  Maybe they or their USPS partner are worried whether someone will challenge the arrangement?

No comments: